The Epic Mafia

zachThe word “mafia” may possibly have a negative connotation, but that is what we are. No, there is no organized crime, racketeering, or money laundering. We don’t lean on small business owners and threaten them if they don’t pay for protection. Hell, we aren’t even all Italian. More or less we are just a bunch of crazy drinkers with a slight running problem. The Epic Mafia.

The name came out of an inside joke with my friend and fellow ultrarunner Justin Chockley. We really started to get to know each other after the blizzard at the Prairie Spirit 100 last year. In our conversations we discovered we were both also in for the FlatRock 101K in April and it got to be somewhat of a friendly competition – given the fact that our pace, training, and ultrarunning experience were very similar. One conversation about how he would take out my knee on the trail with a tire iron at the 101K if I passed him led me to call him Chocko (like Rocko), and it kind of stuck.

Now, fast forward to the FlatRock 50K in late September of 2013. Individual friendships built around ultras (primarily Epic Ultras events), pacing gigs, and chat messages all began to form into a small tight group that was all converging at Elk City Lake at the same time. After a shot of bourbon under the Epic Finish line at the conclusion of the 50K, the Epic Mafia was born. A group of 4 or 5 tight-knit group individuals had formed who would not even know each other had it not had been for ultrarunning – and more specifically Epic Ultras events. The point is that while I love running ultras, I love the relationships that I have forged because of ultras even more. Since Flatrock 50K in September, several more crazy-ass runners have informally joined the mafia.

This brings me to WinterRock. I have been super excited for this race since FlatRock – and not just because of the amazing trail and event surrounding it – but because I knew the “Epic Mafia” was going to be there in full force. The mafia had grown by several members since September, and we had gotten even tighter as a group. While not every unofficial member of the Mafia could make it, most did, and we had a blast! Our trademarked shot of bourbon at the finish was complemented by a pre-race shot as well (it was only a 25k, right?). We have joked that we should all get together sometime when we aren’t punishing our bodies at a trail run. What a novel idea! But alas, as of yet, it has not happened. Aside from having friends you know cheering you on, bonding with other ultrarunners helps ensure you don’t hear the dreaded statements, “You run the whole {insert insane distance here}?” or “I don’t even like to drive that far!”

As far as the race goes, WinterRock was great. The event was executed flawlessly from start to finish, including an excellent pot of homemade chicken and noodle soup, and delicious bean soup for the veggies, courtesy of Epic Ultras Chief of Operations and chef extraordinaire – Mr. Warren Bushey. Although it was a “fatass” event, Epic made it feel more like a full blown race. Personally, I don’t think you need much aid for a 25K, so even having water on the course was more than adequate for me. Once again, if you want to be at THE BEST EVENT FOR YOUR MONEY, choose Epic Ultras events. As far as the running goes, it was snowy, slick, muddy, and of course – ROCKY. I ran very well aside from twisting my ankles multiple times (Hoka’s fault maybe?) I ultimately rolled my right ankle a lot worse with about 10 miles left and it slowed me down considerably. Despite the pain, I still had a very solid finish. In the words of fictional ultrarunning legend Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

For me, this race was more about the people running than the running itself. Great job to all the Mafioso who race at WinterRock… you know who you are. And if you have any problem with anything in this article, please send a formal complaint on over to Chocko and his tire iron.

Be Epic!

Zach

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